Forging Ahead: The WPA & The CCC
By Donna Potter Phillips, Donna243@gmail.com, please do not use without permission.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on 6 May 1933, signed into law the Works Progress Administration (WPA). FDR was elected president because he had a plan to bring America out of the Great Depression. His 3-part plan called for relief, recovery and reform, and he was willing to commit federal dollars to achieve this plan for America. The goal of the WPA was to employ most of the unemployed people until the economy recovered. The WPA put men to work building airports, dams, highways, roads, bridges, schools, courthouses, hospitals, post offices, museums, community centers and swimming pools, playgrounds, zoos and much more. By June, 1941, the government had spent $11,000,000 on projects which would be $186 billion today.
Besides all those building projects, the WPA created programs of employment for those involved in the arts, education, historians, archeologists, geologists and researchers. The “best thing” for genealogists to come from the WPA was the compiled inventories of manuscript collections…. Burial listings in cemeteries, federal and state census indexes, naturalization records indexes, newspaper indexes, inventories of courthouse and church records and compiling historical oral narratives of slaves, immigrants and Native Americans.
Another project of the WPA was the establishment of the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. This program, operational between 1933-1942, was established to provide employment to unmarried men between the ages of 17-28 and some 2,000,000 men were enrolled. The men were paid $25 per month and all were required to send $20 of that home to their families. The CCC program ended in 1942 as war was needing young American men.
Want to learn more about the WPA/CCC?
***Paula Stuart-Warren offers a 55-minute webinar/video for Ancestry Academy telling the complete story.
***Google the terms adding your state or area. A simple search for “WPA records” yielded 16,100 hits in under a second.
*** The National Archives at St. Louis is where to go for personnel records. (Fill out a form; pay a fee; be patient.)
*** The Minnesota History Center offers tips, databases and helps.
*** Click to Cyndi’s List, then U.S. History: The Great Depression; Works Progress (Projects) Administration-WPA; there you’ll find 15 links to various WPA/CCC records.
*** American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA, by Nick Taylor, 2008, available on Amazon.